Friday, 28 January 2011

Catching up and slowing down

It has been a while  now since I posted my 'daily' small stone - not quite in keeping with spirit of the thing but I have collected a few in my pocket over the last (busy and stressful) week. Just sitting down to write now I feel better already - a few minutes of quiet for which I am very grateful.

Here goes then:

The paradox of the silver birch.
Fragility and freedom
caught in wild branches
and slender scarred trunk.

Yesterday's problems now resolved.
And I am grateful for good neighbours.

The stress of the day
gathered tight in my stomach
... sickening.

The stress of the day
gathered tight in my head
... ache.

The stress of the day
gathered tight in my chest
and a hand held in love
... soothes.

This next one is from yesterday and prompted me to write again:

Rushing for the train, I remember to look
and see trees I don not recognise;
I want to know what they are.

Friday, 21 January 2011


Exchanging a word and a smile with a stranger.
My life is enriched 
by this experience of shared humanity.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Demolition and growth

Yesterday I walked past a demolition site on my way to work. They've been going for a couple of weeks now but yesterday it struck me just how invested particular sites and buildings are with past histories, people's lives and stories. The exposure of internal walls and decoration not normally on view hinted at hidden lives. This morning I am working from home and the view outside is rather more peaceful and in an interesting counterpoint to yesterday's destruction. Today the trees seem full of life, despite their still bare branches. Bud tips are just beginning to peep through in places and the potential of the spring and summer growth ahead is already there in all its fullness.

Demolition site (from yesterday).

Steel crumples, walls crumble
and dust billows over the site. 
The heavy hand of the machinery
exposes past lives.

And a quieter scene today, building (and growing) not breaking.

Branches curve skyward in consummate strategy
and buds begin to burst through.

Monday, 17 January 2011


A photo of my feisty daughter looks back at me
and our early morning argument wounds me 
all over again.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Winter chill

The wind whips through the lime,
stripped bare for winter, and the tree shivers.
A trio of blue tits flit from one branch to another.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Man's inhumanity to man

Here is the Burn's poem I referenced in my previous post. I should have said that I'm trying to notice my own prickliness, as much as anyone else, and wonder why I am behaving like that, what soft spot someone has touched and how I can respond more honestly.

Man was made to mourn: A Dirge

Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, -
Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

(Robert Burns)


I've been slowly reading Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek which might be viewed as one small stone after another. Her observations of nature are astute and cur to the very core of what a daily small stones practice is about for sure. I've been thinking more and more about how we see other people, about how what we observe on the outside, what we experience of people good and bad, is often never quite what is going on inside. We rarely know the full story so that even the most prickly of characters has a soft spot, a degree of vulnerability which that prickliness is hiding. Dillard writes:

'The general rule in nature is that living things are soft within and rigid without. We vertebrates are living dangerously.... [M]an alone, poor wretch, she [nature] hath laid all naked upon the bare earth....'

Well, maybe. She is right that physically we are ill equipped. The tree has tough bark to protect it and plants and animals generally have all sorts of protective strategies. But what about us? Soft on the outside? That's where we all, at times, put up our prickly protection, create a carapace and hide from the world. Inside though, that's where the softness is, where we are vulnerable and what we need to show. It takes courage to expose our vulnerabilities, but when we do others often reciprocate. That's when Robert Burns' famous line 'Man's inhumanity to man' is turned on it's head and 'man's humanity to man' builds us up, perhaps making us a little less vulnerable, a little stronger.

So, I'm still looking, but I'm trying to look beyond the surface for that soft spot that makes us all human, that makes our fellow human beings so interesting.